Friday, 30 November 2018

The Christmas Jesus

I contributed this week’s ‘Connecting with Culture’, a weekly email service provided by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity.

When does Christmas start in your household? At what point is it reasonable to put up your tree and start playing Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want for Christmas is You’ at full pelt?

With the regularity of a liturgical calendar, the Christmas adverts on TV arguably mark the beginning of the festive period for many. Nowadays, the Christmas ad is as much a part of the season as Boxing Day sales, broken toys, and left-over turkey.

Over the years, the John Lewis ad has become something of a sensation. This year’s is called ‘The Boy and the Piano’, and it features Elton John. We’re taken back in time to the moment his excited younger self ran down the stairs one Christmas morning to open his first piano. The moral of the tale, as the tagline tells us, is that ‘some gifts are more than just a gift’.

But, can a gift really make that sort of difference to our lives?

If the commercial hype feels too much, you might like to check out a two-and-a-half-minute Christmas film, made for £50, called ‘Love is a Gift’, which has been viewed millions of times.

It features a young man decorating his tree and counting down the days until Christmas, when he sits alone and listens to a cassette tape his Mum made for him before she died. We’re able to see that she recorded several tapes for him to listen to every year on Christmas day following her death. As a tear falls down the man’s face, it’s revealed that it’s the last tape his mother made. The film ends with the tagline: ‘Love is a gift that lasts forever. Merry Christmas.’

But, is love really a gift that lasts forever?

We need love, and we long for connection; good gifts really can make a difference in all sorts of ways. It’s not that the sentiments are wrong. It’s that the solution to our sense of lack is located in the wrong place. The Christmas ads are laying out a need we have that can be met only in the Christmas Jesus.

Can a gift really make a difference to our lives? Yes, but all the gifts in the world won’t make the difference we really need. Is love really a gift that lasts forever? Yes, when it comes from the one who lives forever. And he offers it to us today.

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